Philip Brasher

Biotech Seed Giant Sued Over Lost China Sales

Cargill Inc. filed suit Friday against Syngenta Seeds Inc. over a genetically engineered variety of corn that led China to largely  shut down imports of U.S. grain. Cargill alleges in the lawsuit that it has lost more than $90 million because of the disruption.

Agricultural Runoff Issues Will Contribute to Future of America's Water Quality Regulations

The Lake Erie algae bloom that forced Toledo officials to issue a do-not-drink advisory for local water in August highlighted the impact that agriculture can have on water quality.

Administration and Farmers Clash Over More Precise Clean Water Act Regulations

The Obama administration has found itself in a public brawl with farmers over a proposed rule that would more precisely define what land the Clean Water Act regulates.

The Other Side of the Border

GUATEMALA CITY — A barefoot 16-year-old boy fidgets as he recounts how he and two fellow Honduran companions tried to sneak into the United States but instead landed in a Guatemalan shelter for migrants and refugees.

Nebraska Sets the Standard for New Farmers

Nebraska’s success in recruiting new farmers and ranchers could point the way for other states and Congress to reverse the decline in the number of new producers.

USDA Struggles to Spark Youth Interest in Farming

Farmers’ markets have spread across the country, and supermarkets and even chain restaurants are vying to lure customers with locally grown foods.

As Data Meets Farm Fields, Concerns Begin to Grow

Farmers no longer just have to worry about whether it will rain too much or too little, or whether prices for their crops will be high enough to cover their costs. Now, growers increasingly are on edge about big data.

They’re concerned about the privacy of the remarkably precise data that’s now being collected about every aspect of how they farm. That includes what types of seeds they plant and where; how much and what kinds of chemicals they’re applying to their crops and where; and the exact crop yields at any single point in their fields.

Farm Groups Sue to Stop Data Disclosure

Even as they raise concerns about corporate use of farm data, farm groups are turning to Congress to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from releasing information that it compiles on agricultural operations it regulates.

In February, farm groups discovered that the EPA had disclosed data about livestock operations that had been gathered from agencies in 30 states. The information, which in some cases included cellphone numbers and the number of animals farms have, was turned over to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice and the Pew Charitable Trusts under the Freedom of Information Act. The states included the two largest hog producers, Iowa and North Carolina, as well as California, Nebraska and Texas.

Cutting Back on Food Waste Could Have Economic, Environmental Benefits

Clean your plate. It could save the planet.

Americans and people the world over waste prodigious amounts of food — an estimated one-third of all that’s produced worldwide. Reducing that spoilage could help feed a growing global population while also reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that occur both when the food is produced and when it’s left to rot in landfills.

U.N. Food Waste Stats Show Environmental Impact

The scale of the global food waste problem is almost as hard to grasp is it is to address.

But the payoff from reducing it could have a significant impact, not only on food supplies but on greenhouse gas emissions, as the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization sought to make clear in a report released this fall.

Debate Over GMO Labels Rolls On

Two decades after Robert T. Fraley pioneered Monsanto’s first genetically engineered crops, the public debate about the technology still rages.

Monsanto has spent millions of dollars in California and now in Washington state to fight mandatory labeling requirements that the industry fears could scare off consumers.

Safety of New Pesticide Technology Is Under Review

Scientists have found a way to use a trick of nature to increase crop yields, combat hard-to-kill pests, grow coffee beans with no caffeine and even save the honeybee.

The technology also could help farmers sidestep some of the issues that have fueled opposition to the genetically engineered foods that are now on the market. Critics, however, fear that biotech giants such as Monsanto Co. are rushing the technology to market before some potential side effects are fully understood.

Shutdown or Not, Farm Bill Extension Expires on Oct. 1

One thing’s certain on Oct. 1: Congress will have allowed the nine-month extension of the 2008 farm bill to expire.

Added to that, in a sort of one-two punch, the Agriculture Department could be faced with shutting down operations that same day, should Congress fail to reach agreement on a stopgap spending bill. USDA officials were tight-lipped Tuesday about any contingency plans, although one key Democratic senator voiced concerns about the impact on the agency.

GMO Soybeans Are Speed Bump in EU Trade Deal

Scientists started working back in the 1990s to genetically engineer a soybean that’s oil would be free of artery-clogging trans fats, a product farmers think will appeal to consumers as well as food-makers and fast-food chains.

But even though federal regulators approved a soybean variety in 2010 developed by a unit of DuPont, the crop is still only being grown on limited acreage under strict rules to ensure it is kept separate from other soybeans.

House to Consider 100-Plus Farm Bill Amendments; Passage May Slip to Next Week

The House launched into debate of more than 100 amendments to the farm bill Wednesday, but there were signs that final passage might be delayed until next week.

A Republican leadership aide signaled that there may not be enough time to finish the 103 amendments to the bill (HR 1947) approved by the House Rules Committee, and a Democratic aide said Republicans needed more time to round up votes. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has resisted allowing votes to continue after 7 p.m. Wednesday, and the House is scheduled to end its workweek at 3 p.m. on Thursday, a Republican aide said.

Changes to Farm Safety Net Programs Raise Concerns

Farmers know they’ll lose $5 billion in annual direct payments when a new farm bill passes. But up until now, few growers have complained about that prospect, because they know they can still count on buying federally subsidized crop insurance.

However, those popular crop insurance policies may start coming with some strings attached. The Senate farm bill (S 954) would add a means test to the insurance program for the first time and would also begin requiring policyholders to comply with rules for protecting wetlands and preventing soil erosion.

Heartburn Over Tracking Foods

Food exemptions aren’t just an issue with the proposed produce standards. The question has now come up as to whether all food producers should conduct record keeping that could make it easier for investigators to track products from farm to fork.

A provision in the Food Safety and Modernization Act (PL 111-353) would limit new record-keeping requirements to foods that are deemed at higher risk of being contaminated, according to the Food and Drug Administration. However, a study commissioned by the agency says that the requirements should apply to all foods, regardless of risk classification.

New Agriculture Rules Generate Anger, Confusion
FDA decision on which crops are subject to new standards is controversial

FOWLER, Calif. — The oranges floating through the chlorine solution in the Bee Sweet Citrus Inc. packing plant will soon be packed in boxes stamped with name brands such as Dole and then shipped off to supermarkets across the country or to destinations in Japan, South Korea and other foreign points.

The chlorine bath, one of the first steps the oranges go through after arriving at the plant, is supposed to rid them of any harmful bacteria. In fact, fresh oranges have a sterling food safety record, but that’s not enough to exempt them and other fruit with little history of outbreaks from food safety regulations.

Farmers, Others Worried About Crop Insurance Status

When Congress overhauled the federal crop insurance system 13 years ago, lawmakers hoped it would reduce the need for rescuing farmers through multibillion-dollar bailouts.

The overhaul, which offered steep subsidies to reduce premiums on high-value insurance policies, succeeded beyond lawmakers’ dreams. Despite last year’s devastating drought, one of the worst since the Dust Bowl, farmers were so heavily insured that Congress’ not passing a farm bill was met with a collective shrug in the countryside.

Economist Critiques 'Obamacare for the Corn'

Not many agricultural economists get asked to be on a TV comedy show, and not many would probably dare go on, if asked. But Iowa State University’s Bruce Babcock, one of the crop insurance system’s most prominent critics, showed up on “The Colbert Report” last year in the middle of the drought that devastated the Midwest corn crop.

He handled it with aplomb.